Under the leadership of Florentino Perez, Real Madrid as a club are not famous for bringing in youngsters from their academy but rather for their ability to lure and recruit the best players from around the world due to their tremendous financial strength, giant status and guarantee of success(most notably trophies). Top players signed for huge fees are regarded by Madridstas as “Galacticos.” In Perez’s first tenure as president, the “Galacticos” includes David Beckham, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Robinho, Michael Owen etc while in his 2nd tenure, the “Galacticos” are the likes of Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez amongst many others.
With the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus, the club decided against spending on big names to replace the Portuguese or to usher in a new era of “Galacticos” and instead sought to implement a new strategy different from what they are famed for. The new strategy is to allow home-grown talents to thrive and also bring in youngsters who possess immense potential to Madrid and improving them. The new method did not yield the desired results, which is simply because it was in its infancy stage and requires time and patience(which Madrid fans are not known for). Hence, the club were forced to splash the cash in the last transfer window.
In this piece, we look at one of the youngsters brought in after Ronaldo’s departure and tasked with the responsibility of restoring _Los Blancos_ to the glory days. He goes by the name, VINICIUS JUNIOR.
Vinicius Jose Paixao de Oliviera Junior was born on 12 July 2000 in Sao Goncalo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In 2009, he went for a Futsal trial at Flamengo (Futsal is a variant of football that is very popular in South America). Although Vinicius impressed on his Futsal trial, he was considered too young and told to come back the following year. However, he decided that he wanted to play football —not Futsal—and did not return. In August 2010, he passed his football trial at Flamengo and signed his first professional contract with the club.
Aged just 16, he made his professional debut for Flamengo on the 13th of May 2017 against Atletico Miniero.
Two days later, he extended his contract with the club from 2019 to 2022 with the new contract containing a €40m release clause. The new contract was because of interest from Real Madrid.
On the 23rd of May 2017, Real Madrid paid €45m for Vinicius with an agreement made in place for the player to remain at Flamengo and join Madrid when he turns 18, which is the minimum age for international transfers. The transfer fee made him the 2nd most expensive player sold by a Brazilian team (Neymar’s transfer from Santos to Barcelona being number one) and also the most expensive teenager in history, as at then.
On the 10th of August 2017, he scored his first-ever professional career goal against Palestino in a Copa Sudamerica match.
Real Madrid officially unveiled Vinicius as a Madrid player on the 20th of July 2018. He made his Madrid debut on the 29th of September 2018 and became the first player born in the year 2000 to represent Madrid. He scored his first goal for the club against Real Valladolid on the 3rd of November 2018.
With Madrid going through a torrid period following the departure of star man Cristiano Ronaldo and head coach Zinedine Zidane, Vinicius was one of the shining lights in the team and quickly became a fan favourite with his mesmerizing skills, bravery, and determination. But an unfortunate injury curtailed his progress and ruled him for the rest of the season. The injury prevented him from making his senior debut with Brazil and also forced him to miss the Copa America tournament in the summer (which Brazil emerged as champions, on home soil).
At the international level, Vinicius won the 2015 South American U-15 Championship, where he was the 2nd top scorer with 6 goals.
In 2017, he also helped Brazil to win the U-17 South American Championship, where he emerged as the Best Player of the tournament and also top scorer with 7 goals to his name.
He eventually made his senior debut for Brazil on the 10th of September 2019 in a 1—0 defeat to Peru.
He is highly regarded as a diminutive, nimble, dynamic, intelligent, and hardworking winger due to his explosive acceleration, excellent pace, agility, balance, technique, flair, dribbling skills, physical strength, close control, and trickery.
He likes creating chances and assists due to his impressive passing and awareness. Critics have pointed out his shooting and goalscoring as areas of his game that need improvement.
Dani Alves considers him as the best youngster in world football while Casemiro said: “Vinicius should be targeting the Ballon d’Or”.
Madrid coach, Zinedine Zidane once said he “represents the future of Real Madrid.”
Written by Muftaudeen Abdullahi Ishola